Esyms Face Mask Guide: The Difference Between Mask Types

types of face masks



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Mask Matters

We know that masks are much-sought after and there is a major shortage in every part of the world. 

Awhile back, even in our own nation, almost all pharmacies have signs plastered all over their doors: NO MASKS AVAILABLE! (Thank goodness the stocks have since been replenished)

We’re all looking for masks, but do we know how to (properly) use them? And what types of masks should we use? 3-ply? N-95? What about those cute cloth masks?

Here are some tips on how to use a mask correctly and which mask you should use during this COVID-19 outbreak.

Difference between cloth/paper mask, 3-ply surgical face mask, and N-95 respirator

cloth mask

Cloth Mask

3 ply mask

3-Ply Mask

n95 respirator

N95 Respirator

 Cloth/paper mask

3-ply Surgical maskN95 respirator
PurposePrevents large droplets expelled by the wearer from reaching the environment. 

Prevents large droplets expelled by the wearer from reaching the environment. 


Prevents large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain viruses and bacteria from reaching the wearer’s mouth and nose. 

Blocks out large droplets and also small particles from reaching the wearer’s mouth and nose.


N95 denotes that it blocks and filters out 95% of particles as small as 0.3 microns.

Filtration EfficiencyDoes not filter bacteria or virusesBacterial filtration efficiency above 95%Minimum 95% against particulate aerosols (of 0.3 micron in size) 
FitDoes not fit tightlyDoes not fit tightlyFits tightly

So, which one should we wear when we need to?

As recommended by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), N95 respirators are only needed by healthcare professionals who need protection from both airborne and fluid hazards. It is not used outside healthcare settings. Therefore, if we have the need to put on a mask, it should be the 3-ply surgical face mask.

When should we use a mask?

Instead of using a mask all the time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that you should only be wearing a mask if:

– You are healthy and are taking care of someone who is a suspected COVID-19 patient
– You are coughing or sneezing

And wearing a mask is only effective if you:

– Pair it with frequent hand sanitisation and practise good hand hygiene (handwashing technique)
– Know how to put it on and dispose of it in the correct manner

So on this note, how do you wear a mask correctly?

How To Wear A Mask Correctly

Here are the steps for wearing a protective mask properly:

  1. Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  2. Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  3. Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  4. Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
  5. To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
We hope you found these tips useful! You can purchase 3-ply masks online via esyms.

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